Browsing Tag

gratitude

Birthday-mania

You Say It’s Your Birthday?

So it was my birthday again yesterday. As usual, no balloons, no party, no fuss. Unless you count the kids arguing over who got to crack the eggs and their shells into my homemade chocolate cake. Just another day trying to love my children the best that I can.

The photograph you see here is not an AFTER shot. This is not the cake as it was after we had enjoyed our delicious little slices. This is the BEFORE. This is the cake we managed to create when the children complained they did not even like cake, or frosting, and so they wanted sprinkles, and Heath bar pieces, M & M’s, marshmallows, and whipped cream. I cut and plated pieces for all three kids to decorate themselves before we even decorated mine. This crumbling, chocolate Pac-Man cake was the finished product.

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The candles, well, we could only find the six we used back in August for Lizzie’s birthday. They started out as balloons, I think, but after repeated use, they looked like rainbow-colored apples with little half-moon bites taken out of each one. As the kids sang their birthday “Cha-cha-cha,” I could see the candles smiling knowingly at me. “You are almost there,” they implied. “Almost there.”

Because parental birthdays, as many of us have experienced, are a matter of survival. Can we just make it through the day before someone barfs, yells at, or pees on Mom? Any other day, any one of those things happens, and nobody bats an eye. But a birthday? Nobody wants to be the weakest link. And the pressure, Oh the miserable pressure, of trying so hard all day long to be extra special nice to Mommy…it’s exhausting. For everyone.

So as ridiculous as it was to share my cake, my candles, and my day with them, that is the grown-up reality of birthdays with children. I do not blame folks who flee to Vegas or Hawaii or NYC. Or those who cash in their about-to-expire Groupons for an overnight at the Casino or some quaint B & B. But if you are not going to hide from your children on your birthday, you are going to have to share it with them. And they will want a piece of everything. They will take bites out of your cake before you frost it. They will unwrap your presents, blow out your candles, and ask for extra snuggle time when you are trying to drink a freshly brewed cup of birthday tea. This can all seem utterly unreasonable — these demands, these pieces, these needs. But it is actually just love.

And, whether I like it or not, one by one, each of their birthdays long ago replaced my birthday, as the most important day of my life. This one? This old bag? It’s just frosting.

With sprinkles. And marshmallows.

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The Writing Process

Interrupting Ducks

“Whatever you do, don’t bother Mom while she’s writing,” cautioned Ken as he zipped out to the garage.

Which is why Katie only asked for a little help with her candy-making stand. She needed marshmallows. And caramels. And Rice Krispies. And chocolate molds. And wax paper.

“Mom is writing, so just let her be,” reminded Ken as he opened his computer.

Which is why Lizzie only needed me to photograph three of the costumes that she put on her stuffed pig.

And why Henry crawled into my lap and fell asleep.

Our kids drive me batty sometimes. They do not understand the sanctity of my work time.

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Then again, they are the inspiration for my work. Their shenanigans fuel my stories; their silliness softens my heart. Because of them, I get to say all manner of things I have never said before.

     No, Lizzie, it is not ‘illegal’ to kick a volleyball.

     No, Henry, you cannot bring three owls and a puppy into church.

     No, Katie, I will not eat that spider for a dollar.

     Yes, Lizzie, I would love to see your pig’s new talent show.

     Girls, stop fighting over that cucumber.

     Lizzie, even if Katie said she would pay you a dollar, please do not shoot that arrow at your father’s butt.

     No, thank you, Katie. I do not want a chocolate-covered hard-boiled egg.

I sometimes envy my writer friends who have offices, computer desks, and uninterrupted hours in which to create.

When I really need to do serious writing, I drive to the grocery store. They have a couple tables near the check out. It is quieter there. Plus, afterwards, I can buy milk.

But mostly, I prefer to write past bedtime. I tuck myself here in the alcove, just me and the spiders, and maybe a cup of tea.  I type through the shadows, thankful, always so very thankful, that the kids’ stories light up the dark.

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Solidarity Brothers and Sisters

That Woman

We all know who she is. That woman who can’t quite handle her kids.

It isn’t fair, of course. Since there are plenty of men who struggle to keep their own children in line. But for whatever reason, we give those guys a pass. It’s that woman. She is the one we notice, and in our weaker moments, gossip about. And we all know who she is.

Her kids scream at her in the grocery store. They slug one another during school pickup. They tantrum in the slushy line at the carnival.

We see them. We see her. We know who she is.

And we judge her. She is obviously doing something wrong. Otherwise, her children would act better, especially in front of all of us. They wouldn’t cuss each other out over the last French fry or lie when they broke another child’s toy. If this woman were a better mother, her kids would have the good sense to save their bad behavior for home. Like ours do.

We pity her, this woman whose children bite, shriek, and scratch. We feel so very sorry that she wakes up to this mayhem day after day. We can’t imagine how exhausted she must feel. We wouldn’t want to do it.

We are also a little thankful for her. But for the grace of God. . . . She reminds us that we are okay. We aren’t the worst parents in town. Sometimes we don’t feed our kids any vegetables. Some days we like our children best when they are asleep. But at least they don’t hit each other in the face with t-ball bats. Our offspring never pee on the tree in front of church. We love our kids a little more because they aren’t as bad as hers.

Some of us try to advise her. We share our success stories, about potty training or that one time our kid threw a fit at the mall. She listens politely to our unsolicited advice. “You know, if only you would ___.” Or, “I’ve found that when my kids say ___, it is best if I ___.” She nods and makes us feel helpful. But the next time we see her, we shake our heads. There’s her daughter mouthing off again. There’s her son punching the dog in the ear.

We all know who this woman is. We disdain, pity, value, and preach at her, but how many of us ever hold her hand? Do we walk together or offer comfort when she cries? Do we keep her children and send her to yoga, to church or to bed? Have we brought her a meal or asked her to tea? We say we know her, but have we ever tried to understand how she lives? Have we lightened her load? Have we ever helped her breathe?

We are not alone on this journey. And, like it or not, whether we have nine children or none, whether we are experienced parental ninjas or still figuring out how to fold the stroller, each one of us will have a turn being ‘that woman.’ Because that woman is inside all of us. (It was my turn the other day in the Trader Joe’s parking lot when I lost my cool about the melted ice cream and the baguette that was to be for company but which the kids decided to lick.  Sorry to all who heard the yelling.) We are all in this together. We are one another’s keepers. We owe it to ourselves, our communities, and our world — the world that our children will inherit — to comfort instead of criticize, to offer ease rather than pity, and to make each other’s burdens light.

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Solidarity Brothers and Sisters

Other Mothers Day

Let me begin by saying I love my mother. Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. Thank you for all these years of unconditional love, laughter, and great cooking. Your guidance and care echo in my heart every day.

Now let me continue for everybody else.

We are all mothers today.

We all mother.

Even if you are a childless man, you mother.

If you are a moody teenager, you mother.

All of us nurse, protect, cherish, and tend to the people we love in this world. At least, we should. And THAT is what this weekend is reminding us. To mother.

Sure, take your mom to brunch if that’s what she really wants. But the day is not about seafood omelets or exclusivity. Mother’s Day is about celebrating mothering. Let’s minister to the sick, defend the weak, nurture the young, the old, the rich, the poor.

In recent years, I have seen women crying on Mother’s Day, weeping openly during the “Ave Maria,” or muffling sobs in contemplative prayer. Last year, a friend told me Mother’s Day was when she missed her mom the most. Of course, it is a day to remember, reflect, and pay homage to the women who birthed us. But we need not leave it there.

Mother’s Day can also be an occasion to check ourselves. Do we mother our neighbors, our friends, our co-workers enough? Do we nourish, tend, and enrich others on this planet the way we should? The way all our mothers taught us to?

That’s right…mothers. Those who birthed us AND all those Other Mothers – the many men and women, both young and old, who held our hands and guided us along the way.

I am blessed to have many Other Mothers. I have auntie-mothers, and boss-mothers, and sister- and brother-mothers. I have a father-mother, and a grandma-mother, and a former-next-door-neighbor-mother. I have had teacher-mothers and student-mothers. I even have a husband-mother. And, of course, a mother-mother.

Let’s all be mothers today. Definitely call your mom. Give her your love. Chances are if you are close, you do this all the time anyway. But call one of your Other Mothers today, too. Don’t weep because you have lost someone. Well, you can do that, but don’t let it be the only thing you do today. Thank an Other Mother. Let that person know he/she loved you, led you, nourished you, and mothered you. And that you are always there to mother right back. Pay it forward and backward today. Let Mother’s Day heal.

Be the mother all your mothers taught you to be.

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New DadvMom on the Huffington Post today.

Holidaze

Hasty Buns

We made homemade pie crusts today. And baked homemade rolls. We tossed together some homemade chicken stock; its aroma is filling the house with anticipatory joy. My nine-year-old wanted dumplings, so we whipped up homemade pot stickers, too. And dipping sauce. We couldn’t forget that.

But I fear I may be running out of juice. Thanksgiving’s not for another two days, and we basically just made from scratch all the things I usually buy. To balance this, for Thursday, I might just have to buy all the things I usually make. Either that, or serve chicken soup, pie crust, wantons, and rolls.

Also popcorn. I love popcorn.

In the end, of course, I know it doesn’t matter.  Whether we eat turkey and turnips, or popcorn and pot stickers, the food is actually the least important part.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.  May yours be a day of fullness and gratitude.

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Solidarity Brothers and Sisters

On Veterans Day

I’m married to a veteran.

He was overseas on 9-11 and deployed repeatedly for most of the first years of our marriage. I guess that makes me a veteran of living with a veteran.

I am grateful for his sacrifices. I am grateful for the 4am flights, the all-night watches, and the Christmas he spent with his flight crew on an island in the Pacific. I am grateful for the birthdays he missed, the holidays he gave up, the discomfort he endured. I am grateful that the plane he flew always touched down, despite engine failures, lightning strikes, and radio messages from countries that threatened harm.

I am grateful that our marriage has endured throughout nearly a dozen years of comings and goings.

But I am just as grateful for the work he has done since leaving the service. He has dedicated his life to helping other veterans continue to serve others even after they leave the military.

I know a lot of civilians who are unsure how to celebrate veterans day. They might watch a parade. They curse under their breath when the bank or post office is closed. Some moms I know gathered blankets and coats to offer a local shelter.

But if I could give veterans one gift on this day, it would be to honor their strengths, not their deficits. To make sure that each and every one of them knows they are valuable RIGHT NOW.  And to remind them how much more they still have to give.dadvmom.com_veteransday_croppedweddingcarriage

Maybe the best way to honor veterans is to make sure that no one is alone today.

For any veteran transitioning from active duty to civilian life, or for anyone who seeks to support that transition, check out the following organizations.

Team Rubicon

Mission Continues

And Happy Veterans Day.

UPDATE — 11/11/2015

Listen to the Dad half of DadvMom.com talking about the importance of Veterans Day on the Diane Rehm Show today.