Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Spilling the beans, a cautionary tale

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For those of you who are planning to have kids, have a little one who isn’t really talking yet, or just need a reminder, here’s why, even though we’re advised as parents to always talk to our kids, we really shouldn’t be telling them everything.

On our walk home from school, we bumped into a neighborhood mom with her toddler in a stroller. It was unseasonably warm and people were coming out of hibernation, lingering to say hello to familiar faces to breathe in more of the un-January air. We were no different.

Thumper was running after Little Miss on the sidewalk, “Wait…me!” but they both stopped when I did to exchange a few words about the incredible weather and remarks about kids being able to play outside again with this mom, who is, in essence, a stranger.

Little Miss, my loquacious preschooler, decided to join in our conversation.

Little Miss: “My name is Little Mis,s and this is Thumper.” (She used their real names, of course)
Neighbor: “Hi Little Miss! Hi Thumper!”
Little Miss: “Thumper calls me Missy, and she calls herself Thump.”
Neighbor: “Oh?”
Little Miss: “I’m four…and Thumper is almost two. Her birthday is on May 28. And mine is on November 13.”
Neighbor: “Wow, you have a good memory.”
Little Miss: “My mommy is 37. And my daddy is 30. She is older than he is.”

I think, Lovely, reminding myself to snack me on my head later. No, wait. Smack her.

Neighbor: “I see. Well, I’m 32 and my husband is 32 as well.”
Me: “Hah. Kids, I tell ya. Good thing she doesn’t know my bank account number.”

And we left it at that.

It’s also a good thing that I’m open about my age. But I’m still an advocate of keeping some things from my kids. Especially my social security number.

Consider yourself warned.


Culprit


* * *

Has this ever happened to you before? What’s the worst thing your kids have repeated to strangers? Do you have any other advice for first-time or newbie parents?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Awesome Mom – I am, I am not

I walked out and shut the bedroom door behind me, hoping to contain the noise of the crying girls. Away from my ears. Away from my heart.

But it didn’t work. My guilt found me, as I knew it would, and followed me like a dense, suffocating fog for the rest of the week. It was an ugly evening that culminated in kids who refused to be placated and who each wanted me for themselves. The protests of overtired girls who wanted more, more, more haunted me, except that evening, I had nothing left to give. Before a terrible situation turned even worse, I chose to walk away.

Naturally, I felt like the worst parent on earth. That guilt was toxic. I knew I couldn’t let it hang over me without being utterly consumed by it – I had to do something.

That’s when I remembered Gretchen Rubin’s “The Happiness Project”, in which she says we sometimes have to act the way we want to feel, hoping that our positive actions would influence our own feelings. I decided to use that theory on my parenting that weekend to get me out of my funk.

I decided to become Awesome Mom, even if I didn’t feel that way. Or rather, especially so.

With Little Miss being home every Friday and Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on Monday, we had a four-day weekend ahead of us. That meant a lot of time together as a family, which also meant the perfect opportunity for me to practice my Awesome Momness.

When my four-year-old started to protest, instead of being annoyed, I thought to myself, what would Awesome Mom do? Rather than react to what I would normally have thought as irrational behavior, sometimes I worked on distracting and diffusing. Other times, I would just take a deep breath and remind myself to act in contrary to my usual self.

It was easier with Thumper, who’s all “otay mommy” this and “otay daddy” that in response to our requests, and who disarms us with words she cobbles together to form clumsy sentences, like “wash my hands...too...peas....mommy!” At 19 months, she’s at the Golden Age, where her disobedience is still considered cute, and her chubby cheeks, coupled with her innocence, work as get-out-of-jail-free cards.

Little Miss, on the other hand, knows the dangerous combination of buttons that can blow my already-short fuse.  My impatience is my downfall, and unfortunately, that’s a serious shortcoming for a parent with an obstinate, defiant four-year-old.

Most of our clashes at home stem from my inability to maintain control of my emotions with Little Miss, and it pains me to think that she would feel any less loved because my relationship with Thumper is often, in contrast, so full of easy laughter and affection. I love Little Miss fiercely and wholeheartedly, of course, but sometimes, when we’re in the midst of World War III, it’s hard for anyone to see that, let alone one who’s at the receiving end of my frustrations.

That’s also the other motivation around my Awesome Mom weekend. I wanted to bring the Awesome Kid out of Little Miss, because I know she is there. We just needed to tune in to the same frequency - one that would bring out the best in the both of us.

Going into the weekend, I didn’t have much of a plan. I only knew that I wanted us all to enjoy the time we shared, so I just turned to My Guy and simply said, “Hey, let’s make this a great weekend okay?”

He agreed, knowing how I’d been feeling last week. We both put in the effort to be extra patient, extra kind, extra understanding, and because of that, we had an extra-ordinary weekend!

Acting like an Awesome Mom made me feel that way, which, positively influenced how I behaved when dealing with a sticky situation. Conversely, reacting well to and therefore avoiding a potential outburst also made me feel like an Awesome Mom! See? “Act the way I want to feel.”

Also, the positive energy must have been infectious, because not only did Little Miss make it easier on me to be Awesome Mom, she was totally the Awesome Kid herself! It was incredible that I went into this trying to erase the guilt only to end up with one of the best weekends we’ve had in awhile. (Ms. Rubin! Thank you!)

We had play dates, a brunch with friends, a birthday party, a trip to the Children’s Museum, a library jaunt, errands, and lazy mornings at home stuffed into our four-day weekend. Each day was better than the other, and it was unbelievable how my determination to become that parent I’ve always wanted to be came simply from believing that I was that parent.

Since having Little Miss a little over four years ago, I’ve been euphoric with the highs and debilitated by the lows of parenting. I tell myself that everyday is a brand new day, and I go into each day with a hope that it’s going to be a good one. Sometimes I falter. Sometimes I fail completely. And miserably.

I haven’t perfected this parenting gig yet, which sadly, at this moment, is the only gig I have, so you’d think I’d be a pro by now. But as this lovely Jill Churchill quote goes, “there’s no way to be a perfect mother but a million ways to be a good one.”

I continue to seek wisdom in books, find solace from fellow parents, Google confounding issues, and take deep, deep breaths. Still, it’s not an exact science - I do well on some days and not so much on others. Although it’s been a wonderful weekend, I just know I can’t be Awesome Mom every day.

But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t keep trying.

 

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My favorite side of Little Miss – still, focused, and cheerful.



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Another one of my favorite things to do with Little Miss while her sister naps – board games.



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Water play at the Children’s Museum – always the last thing on our agenda as the girls would be soaked, just like Thumper here. As any Awesome Mom would, I brought a change of clothes. Woot!

 

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When sausage and peppers is on the menu, that could only mean one thing in our house – it’s Daddy Chef night!

 

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My favorite picture from our weekend. Two Awesome Kids and one Awesome Dad surrounded by a ton of Awesome Books. What’s not to love?



* * *

What do you do or say to yourself when you’ve had a not-so-awesome day with the kids? How do you keep going? Where do you go for parenting guidance and inspiration?

 

 

This is a Wordful Wednesday post.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

We’re all just trying to make connections aren’t we?

Some days are hard, but not necessarily in a bad way. Things are swimming along well, but you’re just caught in its undercurrent, constantly trying to surface for breath. When you catch a break, all you want to do - can do - is breathe. And that’s how this week has been for me. In a good way, I should add, because it has been a week of savoring little people and their little people ways.

BakingAndPlayingWithFlour

I usually start writing when my girls are in bed at night, but while I have a few posts brewing in my head, nothing is translating well “on paper”. I spent two hours writing yesterday, and at the end of my post, I decided to scrap it.

What I’d imagined in my head morphed into something else altogether when I forced my tired, unmotivated mind for words. My sense of obligation to “just post something” churned out nothing of substance, which this post is quickly turning into if I don’t get to my point soon.

My point is that sometimes I just don’t feel like blogging. Sometimes I just want to veg in front of the TV and let it drain me. More often than not, I don’t have the time to dedicate to this blog like I used to. But yet, I make myself do it because, well, I do it for my girls, of course.

Little Miss was the reason I started this in the first place, but when I found my place within a blogging community that I adore, that’s when it became a joy for me. I was inspired by these women, who are fellow writers, bloggers, and moms, and rejuvenated by these new friendships. Above all, I love the spirit and support of our community, evident in my post from last week, when so many banded together in support of one of our own.

But then, something else rather unexpected happened. People started to reach out to me because of my stories. And I don’t mean those who comment openly on my blog. I mean people who either don’t know me or who are just “Facebook friends” or friends with whom I’ve lost touch have written me personally in response to an experience I shared in my post, one to which they could relate.

Whether it’s my struggles as a full-time working mom, my challenges with a difficult preschooler, or my relationship with My Guy, some of these stories have resonated with certain people. Even friends who wouldn’t otherwise unburden on me have come to me with their own stories after reading mine and that has naturally made us even closer. It is both heartwarming and an honor that people would either choose to confide in me or just to share their version of the story.

I’m also unbelievably grateful to know that my words mean something to someone (other than my family), and that I’m not alone in this. That there is someone else out there going through exactly what I’m going through. Like my blogger friend, Amy, said to me on Twitter, “THIS is the real Internet. Connections like this.” To that, I say a resounding YES! After all, we’re all just trying to make connections aren’t we?

Here’s one such connection that blew my mind. Last week, after my post on helping out a fellow blogger, someone sent me the following message in private:

Hey you...

I've been meaning to tell you something for awhile and your post today finally made me sit down and do it.

2012 was a shit year for us. <Background story here, which I’ve omitted to respect the privacy of the sender.> It was an extremely trying time and I was lost and, though hopeful for reconciliation, really scared I was going to lose everything - my house, my relationship, my security, my sanity.

Even though I didn't know the details of yours and your guy's story, it got me through our tough time. If you could do, we could do it. You guys gave me the hope that all is never lost and there are peaks beyond the valleys.

I am happy to report that my husband and I are in a better place than we have been in the 8 years we've been together - happy and solid and madly in love with each other.

Thank you for giving me light on my darkest days.

That letter brought me to tears. Happy tears! The fact that we triumphed in our struggle to get back on the path as a family again was one thing, but to be able to inspire another? It’s incredible! Besides, I knew exactly what she meant – the heartbreak, the joy – because I was there too. I felt every bit of her angst and elation, and to relate at such a deep, emotional level with someone I’ve never even met made me see just how much blogging has brought to my life. How rich and robust this experience is, even when it only exists inside my computer.

It’s connections like these that really make this an amazing space for me.

The fact that my stories could help anyone at all is incredible to me, but it was never my intention when I started blogging. Now, however, it’s one of the reasons I’m still here. Even on a week like this, when all I want to do is watch a marathon of Californication with a pan of homemade raspberry-oatmeal cookie bars on my lap every night before going to bed.

I keep coming back to this space because of my daughters, and because of this connection. Also, I ran out of oatmeal – no cookies bars for this girl. So here I am at 1 a.m., popping Cheez-Its into my mouth to quiet the rumbling, ravenous belly because my linguine with clam sauce from my 6pm dinner has long been digested. My family is sound asleep, and I should be in bed myself.

But for now, I’d rather be here. For you. For me.

* * *


What amazing connections have you made on the Internet? What does the Internet mean for you?

 

 

 

Simple BPM

This is a Bigger Picture post. Read more about it here.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Kindness of strangers

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It was the worst time of my life. My relationship with My Guy was in trouble, and I felt it to the core. I continued to blog, but I kept the topics light and fluffy – I couldn’t write about my heartache openly as it was just too personal. I mostly kept the pain to myself, except for the two women, Cecilia and Stacia, to whom I reached out.

They were strangers. Well, at least I’ve never met them at the time. They were fellow bloggers, and we’ve been following one another for awhile. I felt like I knew them from blog posts that they often wrote from their heart, and because writing was my preferred medium, I chose to write these virtual strangers about my troubles. They were an enormous help, lending perspective and support, even camaraderie, and I was beyond grateful for their insight and friendship. l still am.

But there was someone else. This time, I didn’t reach out to her. She reached out to me.

One day, I left a comment on a post that hit close to home, on a blog that I read regularly. I didn’t mention my situation, but because sadness tends to permeate all aspects of our lives, I suppose it must have painted a grey hue on my response.

That was when the author of the blog sent me a personal email asking if everything was okay. She, who, for all intents and purposes, was also a stranger to me. She, whose name I didn’t even know as she guards her real identity with a lock and key. She, with whom I’d never had a real conversation outside of our comments on one another’s blogs.

I was so moved by her gesture that I felt compelled to open up to her. And I’m glad I did. Because, together with my two blogger friends, our therapist and a book, she was one of the main reasons that my family is still standing here today.

With a few years on me, this woman who I only know as Big Little Wolf, offered wisdom and perspective from her own experiences - ones to which I could easily relate because we shared a similar past. Her emails were long and thorough, as if spoken by someone who was sitting right there by my side. And they were always kind. To this day, some of the things she said to me continue to influence how I approach my relationship with My Guy.

And you know what the kicker was? She was in the midst of her own crisis when she spent all that time writing me, a mere stranger. She is divorced, raising two sons on her own, and she was going through financial hardship when she decided to ask me if everything was okay on my end. Can you believe that?

While that was two years ago, financial troubles in this economy is not easy to overcome. But she is sharp and resourceful, and she hopes to use her incredible writing skills and her blog to get her to a more comfortable place. In essence, she needs readership and fans to secure advertising on her blog because, for a woman raising two children on her own, every little bit helps.

Knowing what she has done for me, I am more than happy to contribute, but I alone can only do so much. And that is why I am asking you, dear reader, to please go to her site, Daily Plate of Crazy, Like her Facebook page, and while you’re there, see for yourself what I always see when I’m there: a woman who offers wit and wisdom, who challenges the status quo, who has style and courage, both in words and in person, who loves Mad Men (and who can blame her?), who is wise, kind, and generous, and who is in need of our support.

It’s not often these days that people reach out to strangers and offer their help, especially when they’re in crisis mode themselves. And yet, she did.

My family is stronger and happier than we’ve ever been because of the kindness of strangers - bloggers who knew no more of me than the words I chose to put on my page. I don’t think I could ever repay them for what they have done for me, for us.

But now that Big Little Wolf is in need of support, I would love nothing more than to contribute to the success she so deserves. To show her that I’m grateful. To show her that I will never forget the kindness she had shown when she reached out to this stranger one January day two years ago.

If you were rooting for us way back when or if you’re a friend who’s happy that the Landed family is together, then please join me in helping Big Little Wolf. All you have to do is Like her Facebook page, and if you’re so inclined, check out her blog and see for yourself this amazing woman who helped save my family.


* * *

When was the last time a stranger surprised you with his or her kindness? When was the last time you helped a stranger? For the latter, help BLW and that answer could be today.

image source: Night work by thomasheylen.

Monday, January 7, 2013

I get a good feeling

ChristmasBanner

The tree is down. As are the rest of the Christmas decorations. I see My Guy carefully folding the paper ornament banner and ask, “Are we keeping that?”

He shrugs, “Why not?”

“We could make something else next year?” I offer weakly.

“I like this one.” And so he continues to carefully fold them and stuff them into a bag. I like that answer, so I don’t argue. Of all the crafts we did last year, this is a favorite of mine because everyone in our family had a hand in it. Even Thumper, who napped through the process, thus giving us the time we needed to complete the project. An important contribution, if you ask me.

With the last container snapped shut, and the furniture back in its place after having to move them around to make room for our tree that ate the living room, the celebration season (the holidays flanked by two birthdays, Little Miss’ and My Guy’s) is finally over.

Things are inching back to normal. Except the normal now looks a little different than the normal prior to the holiday frenzy.

For one, four-year-old Little Miss can now read! Granted, it’s two- to three-letter words and short sentences, but she’s making progress. If you could have only seen the sunshine on her face when she managed an entire sentence (all three words!) on her own; it was priceless.

She’s been sounding letters on her own since she was three, and because she was never taught to read in preschool, she never thought she could. Until one day last month, when I casually asked her to give it a shot during our quiet time together.

As a reader myself, my heart was caught in my throat when she began to form the words herself. All I could think of was how much closer she was to “Harry Potter”(!) “Anne of Green Gables”(!) “The Faraway Tree”(!), a series by my favorite British author of children’s novels, Enid Blyton.

I know, I’m jumping the gun here. “Dot sat on his cat” is a long way off from Hogwarts, but can you blame this lifelong reader for being excited? All of the books I devoured as a child will someday be in her little hands, and those worlds I frequented will soon be her regular haunts. Well, one can hope anyway, as she is part My Guy after all and may end up a gamer instead.

Not to be outdone by her sister, 19-month-old Thumper decided to reach into her own bag of tricks and started to count to ten on her own - a feat that shocked even me, who spends all day with her, as I didn’t think she knew it until I watched her put aside her board books, counting each one with surprising accuracy, on Christmas morning.

She also now knows the words to the songs, “ABC” and “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”, and is on her way to master “Are you Sleeping,” and Laurie Berkner’s, “Moon, Moon, Moon,” all of which are part of her nightly repertoire of lullabies.

As if those weren’t enough to outshine her big sister, Thumper also has her colors down. Well, all but yellow. And fuschia. And teal. And ochre. You know what I mean. Needless to say, with Little Miss’ girlie-girl influence, the first colors she started to recognize and say were pink (“peet”) and purple (“puhpl”), followed by blue (“boooo”), green (“geen”), red (“waed”) and orange (“inch”).

Thankfully, she decided on “puhpl” as her favorite color, so now, whenever she sees something pink, she takes them to her sister and offers it to her sweetly and hangs on to all things purple like the winning lottery ticket. Amazingly, that also means, no fighting! Well, at least not over that one thing. That leaves them with only 739 things they can fight about. Yay.

As for My Guy, well, he went into the holidays a twenty-something and came out a thirty-year-old. That’s not just a milestone; it’s a frickin’ boulder! So far, he’s rocking the new decade. Yes, all five days of it.

In other news, I ran 10 miles today. My first double-digit miler. With the sun in my face, it felt absolutely incredible. Every step felt right, and the best part was when the song, “Good Feeling” by Flo Rida, came on Pandora right after I stopped running. So I decided to dance the rest of my way home.

So yes, normal looks a little different in 2013, but like the song says:

Oh, sometimes, I get a good feeling...
I get a feeling that I never never never knew I had before, no no
I get a good feeling...

Yeah I got a brand new spirit,
Speak it and it's done
Woke up on the side of the bed like I won...

I know, I can’t believe I just quoted a pop song here either. But you know what? This is 2013. It’s a brand new year, and I just ran 10 miles when four months ago, I couldn’t even run one. I am certainly optimistic. For growth, for change.

Anything is possible.

 

* * *


What are you looking forward to in 2013?

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

A full year

GirlsInSnow  

Let me start by saying, Happy New Year! I’m optimistic and excited. It’s a new year after all. Brand new stories. Clean slate. A time for renewal. And maybe more snow.

On the other hand, I’m also sad to see 2012 go. I realized the other day that it was perhaps the best year of my life, and the funny thing is, nothing spectacular happened.

At this time of the year, I notice many people are looking for a new word to carry them throughout the next twelve months, like “courage” or “strength”. I can’t seem to find one that I’d like to settle on for my future, but when I think about 2012, the first word that comes to mind is full.

From being full of anxiety at the beginning of the year, when My Guy left his corporate job to become an entrepreneur, to being full of hope towards the end, knowing that if we made it the first year with relative ease, perhaps things will work out fine for us after all.

It was also full of surprises as I didn’t expect to veer off from my career path to explore the world of the stay-at-home parent (with the occasional freelance gig). It was meant to be temporary, except after a summer with both girls home and a family in harmony, we started to toy with the idea of a more indefinite situation. We are still here.

Speaking of surprises, I planned a 30th birthday party for My Guy behind his back just a couple of days ago and miraculously pulled it off when he walked into a room full of our friends, yelling “surprise”, as scripted. I’m happy it worked without a hitch, he was glad to see so many friends from different aspects of his life congregating in one space, and my daughters were ecstatic because they were full of cake. Success!

 

Surprise
“Surprise!”

SurpriseBaby
“Oh right, she should probably see this too huh?”

BlowingCandles
“Daddy, let’s blow out the candles together!”

Today is his actual birthday, but instead of my usual gushing, I just want to simply say, “Welcome to your thirties, honey - I’m so glad you finally caught up with my decade. Maybe it’s about time we move on from the “you were in diapers” jokes. Oh, and I love you. Fully and completely.”

2012 was also wonder-full (that counts right?) for so many reasons. Thumper’s transformation from infant to toddler alone could fill a book of wonder, but because she’s the second child, said book does not exist. But that doesn’t mean we’re not crazy about her. Because we so are.

As for her sister, Little Miss and I developed a special quiet time between ourselves, where we would read, nap or craft together, and that helped soothe many of the inevitable clashes that came from our struggle for control and her need to vie for attention whenever her sister was around.

While I’ve had moments I’m not proud of as a parent with her, she also gave me one of my most powerful parenting moments. One afternoon in the fall, when she was restless and crying in bed due to a headache, I climbed in with her and massaged her forehead, following her brow lines with my thumbs with gentle pressure, trying to ease her pain.

We were lying on our sides, facing each other, and as the minutes passed, her eyes, initially moist with tears, started to close. When she was sound asleep, I stayed beside her. An hour later, she woke with a smile when she found me next to her. Her headache? Gone. As a parent, we want so much to ease the pain of our babies, and when that actually happens, I’m simultaneously grateful and blown away.

I’m also thankful for the weather as the year started with a mild winter, followed by a decent spring, then a gorgeous summer full of blue skies and a postcard-perfect fall in our fair city. Because of Mother Nature’s kindness, we were afforded many incredible days in the sand and water with our girls, and when I started running in early September, the canopy of fiery orange-red leaves above me and the golden yellow ones that lined my path were a beautiful (beauty-full?) distraction from a difficult activity.

And running! Wow. That’s another colossal surprise, as I’ve never been a runner. But when it became a regular thing, together with yoga, I started to feel so full of strength and energy. Like I could do anything I set my mind to accomplish, and so far, I have. Well, except for the part where I had to stop myself from the cookies during the holidays. That didn’t work so well.

BUT. This is a brand new year. I may not make resolutions, but I could at least start by attempting to consume fewer cookies. If my word for 2012 is “full”, maybe I should contemplate using “enough” for 2013. Like stop eating when I’ve had enough. Get enough sleep.

And enough with the writing. See “get enough sleep”.

Besides, I need to rest up as there’s more celebrating to do. Apparently, turning 30 is a big deal. I’m just glad I finally get to call him my “old man”. It’s perfect, because I can’t imagine growing old with anyone else.


NC

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