Love, Learn, and Eat Crow

We both agreed. We were not going to be those parents who had our kids enrolled in so many activities that we spent our evenings driving from one place to the next, eating take-out in the car, unable to sit down together for family dinner and with little time to spare for getting the homework done.

No siree.

Well folks, for family dinner tonight, we’re eating crow, and my husband and I are both having a plate-full.

This last week of summer break, my daughter finished her first season of golf and began her first season of soccer. Practices were stacked back-to-back. Simultaneously, she is working towards her black belt in karate, and shortly after school resumes, Girls on the Run will begin. This Fall, she’ll likely be at a game or practice of some sort six days of the week.

IMG_4027 3

We have no one to blame but ourselves. We are the ones who completed online registrations and took her to buy cleats. We are the ones who dropped her off at the golf course and we are the ones who remind her to practice her Heian Shodan and her Pal Gue 2. It is I who will be her running buddy for her 5k in November and her father who will cheer her on as she crosses the finish line.

The little girl who only ever wanted to come home from school and play with her baby sister is growing. Her interests are expanding, and we are eating crow.

One evening, on a trip to Target, my daughter mentioned that she’d like to give soccer a try. She found a pink ball in the sporting aisle and carried it all around the store, so I bought it for her. In the following weeks, she’d kick it around the back yard with my husband and take it to the park. I watched her long, tanned legs dribble the ball and her ponytail swing as she ran after it. She was already signed up for her running program and already involved in karate, but she wanted this experience too. After much discussion and deliberation, we signed her up.

Perhaps it was the what-if that made me agree to a three-sport season. What if this is what she gets really passionate about? What if she goes on to play soccer in high school? What if it earns her a college scholarship? What if I said no?    

So I said Yes. I said Yes despite all the times I hollered from the hilltops that I would never.

One of the many things I have learned as a parent is that anything is possible, so it’s probably best if we stopped speaking in absolutes.

It’s like that State Farm commercial where this couple gets engaged after the man swears to his buddy that he’s never getting married. Then, as they are flying on an airplane with a screaming child behind them, they both agree that they are never having kids. The scene cuts to the woman giving birth, after which the now family of three sits around their dinner table in their swanky apartment insisting that they’ll never move to the suburbs…which they do, along with purchasing a mini-van and having yet another baby, both things they said a firm “no” to in the previous scenes.

Women everywhere are guilty of claiming that they are never going to be that mom, whatever that mom is for them: the mom who is 100% organic or the chicken-nugget-mac-and-cheese-hot-dog-mom. The mom who vaccinates or the one who doesn’t. The mom who hasn’t made it to a single back-to-school night or the president of the PTO.

We’ve all shook our heads and tsk-tsk-tsked at that which becomes our own reflection in the mirror.

Even if I never proclaimed it out loud, I probably thought that I was never going to feed my children Goldfish crackers for breakfast, but that went down on more than one occassion.

We definitely weren’t going to let our children sleep in our bed, and so when we bought new furniture, we stuck with a queen-sized mattress.

IMG_9735.jpg

In hindsight, we should have gotten that king.

I was never going to make my children a separate meal from what we were eating for dinner, but after one taste of my Cajun crab chowder, I was back in the kitchen slapping together two grilled cheese sandwiches.

Likewise, I thought there would never come a day when we would be putting golf clubs in the trunk while taking shin guards out, yet here we are, and really, it’s okay.

As moms, we have all reneged on parenting choices we once said we would never do.

There’s no one-size-fits-all. What you thought might work failed. Situations and priorities change. People change. Maybe, as in the case of “I’m Not a ‘Crunchy’ Mom Anymore,” life threw something into your well-oiled machine, and as a result, you realize: This is who I am now. You accept it, or you forgive yourself, but either way, you let that shit go because, quite frankly, in the end, it doesn’t really matter whether you used cloth diapers on only one of your children, so long as you loved and you learned.

 

FOR MORE LIKE THIS, FOLLOW ME ON READINGWHILEEATING OR LIKE MY PAGE ON FACEBOOK.

 

SaveSave

SaveSave

Beach Etiquette 101

“Why do they need all that space?” my mother asked.

We had just arrived at the lake and while it was only 9:00 in the morning, it was already packed. To the left of us were four pop-up shade structures and two beach umbrellas all belonging to one group, which at the time only consisted of half a dozen people. When my husband and I were first living together, we rented a cottage about the same size as the real estate they were taking up.

I knew from experience that within the hour there would be many more joining them. In hindsight, I wish we had picked another place to lay our blanket down, even if that meant lugging our cooler and dragging the Wonder Wheeler filled to the brim with buckets, shovels, inflatables, and beach chairs a mile through the sand.

Come they did. Grandparents and aunts and uncles and mothers. Fathers, children, cousins, and friends. Babies in diapers and sulky teenagers. Elderly women who never left the shade and rowdy kids who tackled each other in the water. All of which was fine. After all, when at the beach, I expect that a small child will waddle across my blanket trailing sand in his wake. I expect that a couple of boys with water shooters will accidentally spray me. When you are at the shore, you are going to get wet.

What wasn’t fine was the way our new neighbors seeped out from their rather large expanse and began invading our small plot of sand. They seemed to think that as they swelled, we would shrink, but they’d clearly never met my mother.

They encroached, yet my mother refused to budge. It was the principle. To accommodate them meant that we would begin crowding our other neighbors, and my mom didn’t think that was right. She dug her heels in the sand, but at one point, I turned around and saw that she’d been surrounded.

There was an empty baby stroller on one side of her, a camping chair set up behind her, a blanket on which more people sat to the other side of her, and a couple of teenagers were hammering in yet another umbrella at her back while a chubby baby tried opening our cooler. My mother was barely visible in the sea of people who literally set up camp around her.

That day, we left the lake hours earlier than I normally would have. It was not my sanctuary. A place I normally go to relax, I departed irritated and annoyed; the cooler I had begun packing at 7:00 in the morning was still half-full.

When company visits, the trip to Lake Tahoe is usually the gem we offer them. Regardless what they think of Reno, they will suck in their breath and break out their cameras at the sight of those turquoise waters surrounded by snow-capped mountains.

IMG_2388

Unfortunately, the one day I had to share this with my mom was marred by beachgoers lacking etiquette.

Proper seashore decorum is not difficult to master. All you need to do is consider a few things:

Music: Not everyone has the same tastes, so if you bring music to the beach, think about volume. For the people around you, your music, like gentle waves, should become a subtle part of the background. It should not feel akin to standing outside a nightclub. Likewise, if you are next to a family with youngsters, please refrain from sharing your love of gangster rap, even if you have small children of your own. While your parenting decision may be early exposure to expletives, my parenting decision is Kidz Bop, so kindly save 2Pac for the ride home in your car.

When Your Child Won’t Stop Crying: Children cry. Sometimes they cry a lot. However, if your child will not stop crying, then may I suggest you try something besides ignoring them. I know you think that what they need most is a nap, but the truth is that there are other people at the beach who also like to nap, and your child’s blood-curdling screams are preventing that from happening.

IMG_0434.jpg

Maybe you need to take your child for a walk, or let them play in the sand for a little while longer. Maybe they’d like to splash in the water. You are not at home, your schedule has been disturbed, and it’s likely they won’t doze off till they are back in their car seat. For the sanity of all of us, the beach is not the right place to practice sleep-training your child.

Personal Space: At the very least, there should be twelve inches between my blanket’s edge and yours. This boundary makes it clear to your toddler which items belong to you and which are mine, that way I don’t come back from a quick swim to find your little darling sticking his finger through my kid’s PB&J or dumping out my purse while you talk on your phone.

And About Kids: They are going to splash and scream and run past blankets kicking up dirt. Children are oblivious to the world around them, but adults are not. If your offspring are acting like ass-hats, it is your job to discipline them. When your boy lobs a fistful of wet sand at my gut, remind him that isn’t cool.

A Note About Activities: If you are going to play in the water, try to find an area away from where people are swimming. When your volleyball smacks down on my daughter’s head as she snorkels, or you tackle me trying to catch a football, I might get a little upset.

IMG_0018

To the man who brought his drone to the beach and flew it above my blanket: I don’t know what you are doing with your footage of pasty moms in bikinis, but you and your drone need to go.

When Your Activity is Getting Drunk: Want to stand in the water guzzling cheap beer and talking about last night’s party that you’re still drunk from? Although your conversation does remind me of all the reasons I’m glad I am no longer in my twenties, try to remember that water carries voices, especially ones too plastered to realize they are yelling in the first place. Since you chose to come to a family friendly beach, your sordid tales are best kept to a whisper.

Additionally, if you have been sucking back Bloody Marys all day, it’s probably better if you didn’t initiate conversation with your neighbors in the sand. When you see my children with their summer tans and ask me, “What are they mixed with?” it is time to switch to water.

IMG_0555

……………………………………………….

Beach etiquette is fairly simple. A good rule of thumb is to try to not disturb your fellow-beachgoers, mentally or physically. If you think what you are doing will, then find a stretch of sand slightly more remote. After all, everyone comes to the beach for the same reason. In the end, we’d all like to return home a little more relaxed.

FOR MORE LIKE THIS, FOLLOW ME ON READINGWHILEEATING OR LIKE MY PAGE ON FACEBOOK.

 

 

 

 

The Universe is Speaking

I am 39 and The Universe is speaking to me. Or maybe, I am 39 and I have finally started to listen. Either way, there are signs all around me as of late; I am paying attention to them and they are leading me places I otherwise may not have travelled.

At 39, I have found my authenticity. I make time for myself in ways I never would before. I am learning to say no to others and learning to say yes to me.

Last winter I took a class in meditation simply because I wanted to. The email that informed me of the course came from the city’s recreation department, but The Universe hit send. Establishing a meditation practice has not been easy, but it’s been beyond valuable. Summer mornings, I roll out an old yoga mat and sit on my deck; I close my eyes, pop in my earbuds, and listen to guided meditations that remind me to breathe. I tell my children not to disturb me unless the house is on fire and for the most part, they don’t. I hear the chirping of birds in my back yard as I inhale and exhale to the voice of someone I’ll likely never meet.

IMG_3513.JPG

The more I meditate, the less I want to drink, and the less I drink, the healthier I feel. I can tolerate more and am better equipped at dealing with stress, which ironically is why I drank in the first place. I stopped coming home at the end of a long work day and pouring a glass of wine; I poured, instead, a cup of tea. For this unexpected gift, I have The Universe to thank.

When a friend of mine spoke of her newfound love for reflexology, I thought, I’d like to try that, so I did. Though the reflexologist kept telling me how healthy I was, I learned that it wasn’t reflexology that I needed–I needed to hear other things she had to say. The Universe had sent me there to receive those messages.

We talked about homeopathy and our casual banter led to her mentioning Arnica, a remedy used for healing. For my father, being scheduled for double knee replacements only a few weeks later, this message from The Universe was perfectly timed. I immediately bought and shipped him the small blue vial along with the instructions for him to begin taking it three days prior to his procedure. In the coming weeks, I felt more at ease about his going under the knife knowing that The Universe was looking out for him in ways I personally could not.

The reflexologist and I also spoke about our love of TedTalks. One of her favorites was by Brené Brown. Currently, she was reading one of her books on vulnerability but she mentioned another called The Gifts of Imperfection which sounded vaguely familiar.

It wasn’t until a few days later when I was searching for something that I pulled out that very book from my nightstand. A gift from my friend who, much like my mom, sends me links to articles and buys me books that she thinks I will benefit from; it had sat within arm’s reach of my bed untouched for several years. I blew off the dust and began reading. The Universe had spoken. (My friend would probably have you note that she had also spoken about three years prior, but I wasn’t listening then…nor was she “The Universe.”)

IMG_7636 2.JPG

It was within the pages of this book that I learned about shame. At 39, I’m embarrassed to admit I didn’t fully understand what shame was or how it operated. Oh I struggled with guilt, but shame was not something I would have admitted to. I was prone to claiming no shame to my game…but there was, and now that The Universe pointed it out to me, it was abundant.

When I finished the book, I checked out Brené Brown on Ted where she said that, “for women, shame is do it all, do it perfectly, and never let them see you sweat.”

For so many years I have been a self-proclaimed perfectionist, but do I really want to be the woman who runs the vacuum before the babysitter arrives? Those gourmet sandwiches that I packed for the beach were delicious, but each time my friend suggested we menu plan for an outing, I felt my anxiety rise. All I needed was a PB&J and a juicy plum from the cooler but there was this pressure I felt to say yes, to do more, to be better.

Brown says, “Shame for women is this web of unobtainable, conflicting, competing expectations about who we are supposed to be. And it’s a straight-jacket.”

When I became a mother, my instinct was to put the needs of my children before my own, but I clearly forgot I had needs altogether. As women, we nurture and we please to the extent of our own detriment.

In a Dear Sugar podcast, The Power of No, the Sugars suggest only saying yes to those things that feel good, that light a spark within you. People shouldn’t feel shame or apologize for having their own needs. Later, when they interview Oprah Winfrey, she shares her own journey with learning to say no.

“I used to be spread so thin, there was no room in my life for me. There was No Room in My Life for Me.”

As a wife and a mother and a teacher, I felt like Oprah. It has only been in the past few years that I have started to make time for me—time at the gym, time to write, or simply extra time by allowing myself to serve chicken nuggets for dinner. Thanks to The Universe, I’m making room with shameless abandon because I want to raise children without shame and guilt, and I cannot do so without first modeling what that looks like.

I’m still practicing the art of no. As it turns out, the easiest person to deny is yourself. Yet as I learned with meditation, there are twenty-four hours in each day; you are worth ten-minutes.

In the preface of her book, Brené Brown writes, “People may call what happens in midlife ‘a crisis,’ but it’s not. It’s an unraveling… a time when you are challenged by the universe to let go of who you think you are supposed to be and to embrace who you are.” While I cringe to think that I have hit the mid-point of my life, I am certainly unraveling. After being wound tight for so very long, there is freedom in that.

She then adds, “The universe is not short on wake-up calls. We’re just quick to hit the snooze button.”

I am 39 and The Universe is speaking to me. It hasn’t suggested I grow out my hair or buy a Harley, yet the other day, after I told my friend about my upcoming Reiki appointment, she jokingly questioned: Who are you? Rhetorical or not, I responded: This. This is who I am. And I felt confident in that answer in ways I never had before.

FOR MORE LIKE THIS, FOLLOW ME ON READINGWHILEEATING OR LIKE MY PAGE ON FACEBOOK.

SaveSave

Pro Kadima and My Marriage

On Friday, my husband and I celebrated eleven years of marriage. Thursday night we went out to dinner and spent the night at a local resort casino. While romantic, it was nothing like last year when we went to Maui for the big ten. If you don’t remember, I wrote about that trip here.

Eleven years is an accomplishment, but it doesn’t feel like one of the milestone anniversaries. Even so, as I pause to reflect on our marriage, I realize that most of what’s important can be found in a simple game played on the shore.

DSC04333.jpg

When my husband and I go to the beach, there are a few things you can count on. The first is Doritos. There’s something about Doritos and the beach that just go together. The day my husband proposed to me we were at The Secret Beach in Southampton. That’s not really the name of the beach, but it was the moniker my friends and I used for it. This stretch of sand was harder to find than most and therefore less crowded. It was one of my favorite spots on Long Island which made it the perfect place for him to have gotten down on one knee. The problem was that I wouldn’t stop reaching my hand into that bright red bag…and he was attempting to slip a ring on my finger. I guess his nerves got the better of him when he finally snapped, “Would you put the chips down for a minute? I’m trying to do something here!”

The engagement ring was so beautiful I am certain no one noticed that my fingers were stained orange with nacho cheese powder.

misc. oics of us 023.jpg

Champagne toast after I said yes.

The second thing you can count on are sand castles. My husband could be a professional sand artist. The kids and I love this about him, but truth be told, he was building sand castles long before we had children. We spent our honeymoon in St. Martin and even then, his sculptures were on display. Nowadays, he will enlist the kids in helping him, but eventually they’ll get bored and go play in the water while my husband sweats it out and finishes his creation.

IMG_0146.JPG

Mike’s “Ancient Ruins” in Maui.

The final guarantee is Pro Kadima, or paddle ball.

I could take or leave most games involving a round object, but bring me to the beach and put a wooden racket in my hand and I am in it to win it. My husband will play anything and so if we are in our swimsuits, we are playing Pro Kadima. We stand in the water, no matter how cold it is, and volley that ball for hours.

Paddle ball is more than just a sport played for amusement; for me, it is a metaphor for my marriage: We are in this game together for the long haul.

I never knew that there was more than one way to play paddle ball, but apparently, there are some who adhere to the same rules used in tennis. There is a net, some form of boundary lines are drawn in the sand, and the two players are opponents. We’ve never played that way.

For my husband and I, we are teammates, competing together to keep the ball in play. We both must give it our all if we want to be successful even if that means diving for the ball and face-planting in the sand. This level of commitment does not go unnoticed. We congratulate each other while we offer a hand to pull them up to their feet.

Sometimes our volleys get so intense that I feel like we are ready for the Olympic team should they ever have one. There is a dedication to our play as I mentally count our number of passes….61, 62, 63, 64, 65

When the going gets good, I eventually begin to laugh which inevitably hinders my ability to play well, but it wouldn’t feel like my marriage if there was no laughter.

This is usually when I start to imagine the other beachgoers watching us in awe, but I can’t look to see if we are, in fact, the center of attention; I’ve got to keep my eye on that ball. It’s too bad that no one applauds for us. In our marriage, we need to keep our focus on one another and what we are doing. Those times when we don’t, when we get distracted and look away, that’s when we drop the ball.

Not every volley is a good volley. Sometimes one of us serves and it comes up a little short; the other person doesn’t even reach for it. Sometimes we can’t even get to double-digits. Sometimes one of us wants to keep playing and the other person wants to lie on their towel and take a nap. Sometimes there is bickering, and sometimes there is blame. You could have gotten that. What kind of serve was that?

When we realize that we aren’t playing our best, we frequently decide to switch sides. This simple change in position is often all we need to see things from a new perspective. And then, we set a small goal. OK, we are going to play till we get to at least 20. With renewed energy and concentration, we change our mindset. Often, we are surprised to see how easy it is to surpass that score.

Throughout my marriage, there are distinct moments when I look at my husband and think: I love this man so much.

The day he asked me to marry him—Dorito breath and all– I felt it. It coursed through my veins after the birth of our first child. I feel it when I watch the curve of his back as he works to craft towers out of sand. I feel it when he wraps his arms around me and stares in my eyes for just a moment before offering me a kiss. And always, I am reminded when we are knee-deep in translucent waters, the sun shining down on us as we send a one-inch sphere back and forth between us in the bluest of skies.

Eleven years. One number in the volley of our marriage.

enhance

And they lived happily ever after…

FOR MORE LIKE THIS, FOLLOW ME ON READINGWHILEEATING OR LIKE MY PAGE ON FACEBOOK.

SaveSave

SaveSave

Summertime Rules

Listen up, Kids–

We all know that summertime rules, but there are also some new and improved rules for summer–rules like sometimes the only thing that really needs to be washed before bed are our feet. My advice to you is to roll with it. Before you know it, we’ll be back at Target stocking up on Ticonderoga number two pencils and jumbo glue sticks.

Having a mom who is also a teacher means that you are way more likely to get a yes out of me in the summertime when requesting frozen yogurt for dinner or asking to sleep outside on the trampoline. You can pretty much guarantee that if it means less work for me, I’m in. After all, I’m off for the summer, and sometimes I can get a little carried away with that.

MRW I decide I'll allow it - Imgur

{courtesy of Imgur}

So in case you were wondering, these are our Summertime Rules:

  1. Bedtimes are Flexible

Some nights you might be in bed by 8 pm, questioning why you must sleep when the sun is still up; some nights we won’t walk in the door till after 9 or 10. As a result, many mornings, I’ll get to enjoy a quiet cup of coffee when the air is still cool and the sun is just peeking over the back fence.

  1. For the Time Being, French Fries are Considered a Vegetable

As a mom who tries to make sure that you consume a fruit or vegetable with every meal, from the months of June through August, the French-Fried potato is perfectly acceptable for fulfilling that requirement. Bonus points are awarded for choosing ketchup over ranch.

IMG_2135 4

  1. If it Weren’t for Beach Towels and Bathing Suits, the Washing Machine Might Never Run

I’m not one of those moms who does laundry round the clock so that it is always under control; I’m more of the weekend warrior. During the school year, my washing machine starts on Fridays at 4:00 and runs till Sunday night when the both of us are officially off-duty. You had better hope you got enough clean underwear for the week otherwise you’ll be turning those suckers inside-out.

Come summer, you may find the washer running mid-week, but only because we need towels for the beach. Be thankful for the warm weather as you will get considerably more use out of that birthday suit.

  1. And Speaking of Cleaning…

I might run a Lysol wipe over the bathroom counter. I might clean the toilets from time to time, but not before there is a visible mildew ring. Yes, I’ll drag out the vacuum, but the primary purpose is to suck up a spider that is crawling along the ceiling. Speaking of which, have you seen the impressive cobwebs in the kitchen? Is anyone going to take care of that? 

65197903

During the summer months, I find myself asking deep philosophical questions like: If one is not home to see the dirt, does it exist?

  1. Naps are In

The day after a sleepover, in the car on the way home from the lake, or on the couch mid-afternoon for no other reason than your eyes needed a break from that book you can’t put down, naps are a thing. These naps can happen at any time of the day or night and it’s not going to interfere with anyone’s schedule, because there is no schedule.

It doesn’t matter if you are going into the fourth grade or your fourth decade, naps are for everyone.

IMG_8021 5

  1. Most Meals will be Eaten Out of Doors and Out of Coolers

Summer is a picnicker’s paradise…except for the fact that like cleaning, I’ve also stopped making any regular trips to the grocery store, and when I do go, it’s for a box of Bomb Pops and a bag of Doritos. This brings a fun element of surprise to every meal. You may find yourself eating a slice of cheese sandwiched between two different types of bread.

You thought your school lunches got pathetic at the end of the year? Just wait till you see what constitutes as dinner come August when we’re at Music in the Park.

  1. Books, Books, and More Books

Summer is for devouring all the books I wanted to read during the school year, but couldn’t. The Amazon Prime account will be used to its full potential as will my library card. Pretty much everything we do is covertly planned around creating time for my own selfish reading. Yes, we are going to the water park again because throughout the day, I can get through a good five chapters in between frolicking in the wave pool.

Likewise, if you tell me you are bored, you know what my suggestion will be.

DSC04233.jpg

  1. Running Around = My New Workout Program

I know I started the summer with good gym intentions. I know I said I was going to attend yoga class three to four times a week, get in a couple long runs, and lift weights in-between. Those first couple of weeks, I did go to the gym practically every day, but now that it’s July, I’ve decided that running from one activity to another is my exercise.

At the very least, I can say that I’ve mastered my corpse pose.

  1. I’m So (Not) Fancy

On the rare occasion that I shower, blow-dry my hair, apply make-up, and put on anything other than a swimsuit, cut-off jean shorts, or yoga pants, my youngest will invariably ask me why I am so fancy.

Note taken, Kid.

  1. We’ve Got Time to Kill 

The other day, we dropped off my oldest at golf, and then my youngest and I went to Starbucks where we ordered and then sat at a table. I found a penny on the floor and we used it to play games that we made up on the spot, like seeing how long we could balance it on our noses while calling out tricks for the other person to do. Now take a sip of your drink. Can you wink with the penny balanced on your nose? Now wink with the other eye.

We giggled and we got some strange looks, but it was all made possible due to that glorious thing called time, which for once, was on our side.

Every day in the summer is another opportunity to wake up and ask, “What shall we do today?” And that, my friends, is the beauty of summer.

FOR MORE LIKE THIS, FOLLOW ME ON READINGWHILEEATING OR LIKE MY PAGE ON FACEBOOK.

SaveSave

A Mom Has A Dream

Parents: Let us not wallow in despair.

While it is true that we have not slept past 7 AM for many, many years, and while it is also true that we have been continually anointed with the bodily fluids of our children, while our voices have gone hoarse from repeating the same simple instructions every day only to have them fall on deaf ears, and while the laundry mounts to dangerous heights, I say to you today, my friends, even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow…for the next eighteen years–give or take– I have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in every parent’s dream.

I have a dream that one day, my home, a modest three-bedroom containing two young children, a couple of dogs and a cat, will remain neat and tidy for at least twenty-four hours. A dream where my words, like stones in a river, will sink into my kid’s heads and they will act upon them. Parents and children will live together in unity knowing that there is a place for everything, and everything is in its place.

DSC04240

I have a dream that one day, I will walk into the bathroom and find all the toothbrushes standing at attention. Globs of toothpaste will not sit like fat slugs on the bathroom counter nor will the remnants of that which was spit from their mouths encrust the sink. No longer will I twist the caps back on to multiple tubes of toothpaste since one child insists on only fruity flavors while the other demands mint. One day, my children’s sensitive palates will unite in harmony.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, in the dining room, my children will sit down together at the table and eat their food. We will not barter for how many more bites one must take. All servings–whether poultry or fish, spinach or rice–will be treated as equals. No speck of parsley nor dice of tomato will be pushed aside. And during this time, expelling gasses will cease, water shall not be spilled, and they will lean over their plates so that food does not tumble to their laps and onto the floor with every bargained bite. There will be peace at suppertime.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that my children will not find a new pair of shoes to wear each time they leave the house, but will put the same pair on that they took off earlier and left by the back door, the couch, or under the kitchen table.

I have a dream that one day, last night’s pajamas will make their way to the hamper. Dirty socks will not hide in the shoe bin nor under the bed but will instead be carried to the laundry room and deposited next to their kin with dignity. Clothes, when neatly folded and left in a pile on the child’s bed to be put away will not topple to the floor, but will be carefully laid in the appropriate drawers—drawers which shall be pushed in!

This is my hope, and this is the faith that I go back to their bedrooms with.

With this faith, we will transform ballads of nagging into melodies of praise.

I have a dream that one day, children will look upon their mothers, and their lips will not be dripping with the words of “clean up this mess.” One day, right there at home, little girls and little boys will be able to join hands as sisters and brothers and set the table or feed the dogs without arguing over who did it last night.

And when this happens, when the children have finally learned to hang up their wet towels after the shower, and to put their toys away, when they are able to flush the toilet every time they have used it so that the dog stops lapping up their pee, when they not only clear their plate from the table but also stack the dishwasher, their moms and their dads will be able to join hands together and sing:

                Free at last! Free at last!

                Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

 

 

 

A More Mindful Summer

Not too long ago, I came across a post by Simple As That. It was titled, Eighteen Summers: That’s All We Get and it was about savoring each moment we have with our children. The author of the blog, Rebecca, reminisces about her chubby-legged baby and quickly fast-forwards to that same child’s future high school graduation, pondering whether her tears on that day will be from joy or regret. She then goes on to offer five promises for making the most of each summer because, as she mentions, time is slipping by.

DSC02998.jpg

I was still thinking about that post a few weeks later when I took my children to the water park. Watching as they played in the wave pool, my youngest was gleefully being buffeted by the waves; each time she got pushed back, she smiled so wide that I could see the gap from her two missing teeth. Last summer, she could only venture in the water with a life vest, usually holding onto my hand painfully tight, and this year, she was body surfing all on her own as I watched from the edge, only my toes getting lapped by the water.

Future milestones flashed before my eyes: driving a car, falling in love, learning to fly. I look forward to each one, just as I look forward to each summer I get to spend with my children, for each summer there are new experiences that the previous summer lacked.

Next summer, I anticipate that my youngest will be tall enough to finally ride the bigger slides at the water park. I can’t wait to see the excitement in her eyes and hear her squeal the whole way down.

Time marches on, my children get older, and I’m ok with that.

According to thousands of mothers everywhere, children are growing up at alarming rates. In a month’s time, babies have learned to feed themselves, they have started to walk, they have even (gasp!) gotten bigger. Every day I see posts on social media where moms are begging for time to slow down.

When it comes to my own kids, I’ve never mourned the passage of time. When I observe my children having a new experience, it feels like a gift. Each time they learn something, I am there to witness it. Their growth means they are healthy and thriving, and that’s not something I wish to impede. On the contrary, I want to be the one who pushes them towards their independence. After all, isn’t that my job as their parent?

Gone are the days of leaky swim diapers and timing activities around a nap schedule. This summer, I can bring a book to the water park and do a little reading. I no longer have to hover over my children and stand at the end of every slide waiting to catch them. Their growing up means a little more freedom for them and a little more down time for me. I’m able to relax, and being more relaxed, I enjoy our outings even more. I can pay attention to the details, the ones that imprint these memories forever so that whenever a certain song plays on the radio, or the sun casts a precise shade of pink in the sky, I am towed back.

We will never be able to slow down time, but we can change our perception of it. By paying more attention to the moments so many moms are wishing to hold onto, time will feel like it’s moving slower. It turns out that remembering to post that six-month milestone photo might be one of the things making it seem like it’s all going by too fast. When we are busy multi-tasking, when we are operating on auto-pilot, when we fail to pay attention, that’s when we blink and another year is gone. Ironically, since routine is one of the things that makes time feel like it is moving more quickly, keeping your tyke a tyke would theoretically make the problem worse.

If you really want time to slow down, simply practice mindfulness.

the-25-best-ideas-about-my-children-on-pinterest-ba-449615

{via Pinterest}

This summer, I plan to take the time to watch them play, to observe how the sun has lightened their hair, to examine the newest freckles on my daughter’s nose. I want to really listen to their stories and take note of the things that make them laugh. My own mother will spend a week with us this July and not only will she get another slice of summer with me, but she will also get to experience it with her grandchildren: days at the lake spent catching crawdads, watching fireworks at night, roasting marshmallows in the backyard, taking an afternoon nap on the hammock in the shade. I’m sure that she will re-live some memories from when I was my children’s ages and she was mine. Yet if I asked her if she’d like to go back in time and press pause, I’m certain she would say no.

Slow or fast, there is no guarantee how much time we will get, but I’m going to be mindful for each summer I share with my kids. And when they are grown, I hope I have the opportunity to do it all again with their children.

Life is about moving forward. To stand still means missing out on all that lies ahead.

DSC04104

FOR MORE LIKE THIS, FOLLOW ME ON READINGWHILEEATING OR LIKE MY PAGE ON FACEBOOK.

 

 

 

SaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSave

 

SaveSave

I am a good ____________.

When my oldest was two-and-a-half, my husband and I went through a difficult time in our marriage and sought counseling to help us through it. Growing up, I had seen a therapist at times when I needed some extra guidance in life, but this was my first plunge into couples therapy.

It was an interesting experience. I found comfort in some of the things the counselor said and did, but other methods I regarded as silly. My husband and I would give each other sidelong glances during the session and then laugh about it on the ride home. There was a purple velvet cushion she used for some symbolic and healing purposes that I have long since forgotten; the conch shell of therapy, we quickly dismissed it. But when my husband broke down and cried over the miscarriage we’d had, I felt our relationship strengthen. It was a loss I never realized he felt so deeply, and having that moment to mourn together helped us to move forward.

While I expected couples therapy to be mostly us talking about our present relationship, what I later realized was that our counseling sessions were very much about us as individuals—our pasts, our childhoods, our upbringings—and how these individual identities were shaping our marriage. We weren’t just dealing with immediate issues, we were dealing with those pieces of ourselves that had contributed to those issues. As it turned out, we both had similar feelings of inadequacy, and we both were beating ourselves up for the problems in our marriage.

Sometimes our counselor would give us homework to complete between sessions, and one time, she encouraged us each to write a list of the things we were good at. I probably poo-pooed the idea at first, but I can’t not do a homework assignment, so I set to work.

I’m a good cook.

I’m a good writer.

I’m a good homemaker.

I’m a good friend.

I’m a good mother.

I’m a good teacher.

I’m a good wife.

I’m a good dreamer.

I added some attributes: loyalty, humor, intelligence, organization, but the list proved challenging to write. I wasn’t used to thinking about the things I am good at, and maybe that was the whole point of the exercise: to find comfort in giving myself praise. Shoot, I’m not even comfortable accepting praise. When my husband tells me I look beautiful, I never just say thanks. I negate his compliment or I roll my eyes. Simply put: I don’t believe it.

Fortunately, with help and because of our commitment to each other, our marriage was repaired, and while we haven’t returned to counseling since, we both kept our lists. From time to time, I’ll come across his or mine, a reminder of how important it is to remember the good in us.

18011484_1820365618284001_2900515238895943680_n

Photo courtesy of Mary Latham, a former student of mine who is currently on her cross-country More Good Road Trip. You can learn more about her journey at www.moregood.today

As we finish off the school year, I asked my students to write reflection letters where they provide feedback on my class. As I skimmed through them and took notes, I started feeling the overwhelming need for a total revamp of my curriculum and instruction.

Confiding in my co-worker about some of the more critical letters and all the changes I was pondering, she pointed at the one face-up on my desk. “You need to read these letters, and not worry so much about the other ones.”

On the top of the pile was a letter that thanked me for all I had done. The student said how much they loved my class, how much they had learned, and how much they’d miss me.

The point is, we need to spend more time concentrating on the job well done rather than the room for improvement. Instead of torturing myself about that one night when dinner went straight from pan to trashcan and I had to order a pizza, I should recall all those other meals that got devoured, the ones where my husband told me it was restaurant-worthy, because deep down I know, I am a good cook. Instead of harboring guilt from those times when I’ve been bitchy to my husband for no good reason, I should remember the times when I surprise him with a Groupon for a round of golf or hire the babysitter and plan a date night to try a new brewery in town, because the truth is, I am a good wife.

A good mother. A good friend. Good enough.

Am I perfect? Hell No. But I think I’ll try to spend less time obsessing over my imperfections and more time identifying the good.

Whether we are traveling across the country in search of the good in others, or simply searching within ourselves, there is more good everywhere– sometimes all we need is a reminder.

Maybe it’s time you wrote a list of your own. Let me get you started: I am a good _________________.

 

For more like this, follow me on ReadingWhileEating or like my page on Facebook.
You can follow Mary Latham on Facebook, Instagram, or at http://www.moregood.today

Mystery Blogger Award

As a relatively new blogger, most of the comments about my posts come from Facebook, which means that the majority of people commenting are those I know personally. I appreciate all the feedback I receive on my writing, but when people I don’t know reach out to me, it’s different. A stranger took the time to comment on what I put out in the blogosphere; they felt compelled to respond. It’s like when your mom tells you that she likes your new hairstyle, it’s cool and all, but when some random person stops you in Target to say, “Great haircut!” then you really start to believe that, Dang, my hair looks fly.

This is why, when I saw a new comment on OMG! It’s My Blogiversary!, I got a little tingle. But then, when I read that Sam from The Caffeine Gal had nominated me for the Mystery Blogger Award, by Okoto Enigma, I was even more intrigued and excited. What was this so-called Mystery Blogger Award? (My first thought: Blogger spam?)

Turns out, The Mystery Blogger Award is a nice way for bloggers to recognize and share other blogs, which sounds good to me. Who doesn’t like spreading the love?

There are some rules I’m obliged to post:

Mystery Blogger Award Rules

  • Put the award logo/image on your blog
  • List the rules
  • Thank whoever nominated you and post a link to their blog
  • Mention the creator of the blog and provide a link to their blog also
  • Tell your readers 3 things about yourself
  • You have to nominate 10-20 people
  • Notify your nominees by commenting on their blog
  • Ask your nominees 5 questions of your choice; with one strange or funny question
  • Share a link to your best post(s)

mystery-blogger-award-logo.png

Let’s start answering those questions that Sam asked.

What is your favorite post so far? Why?

I think my favorite post was Co-Parenting for the Married Couple. It was certainly the most popular post in terms of it’s views, but that’s not why it’s my favorite. I worked on it for months. I kept revising, and as it was about my marriage, it was deeply personal.

My husband reads all my posts before I publish them and prior to posting Co-Parenting for the Married Couple, we had been bickering more than usual and generally getting on each other’s nerves– as will happen when you live with someone for like, 13 years. I know that he appreciated reading that post; it said more than I would have in that moment and it helped us to realize the big picture again instead of focusing on those dirty socks that are always on the floor.

If you had a pseudonym, what would it be?

It’s not really a pseudonym, but I would want to be published under my maiden name, even though it is French and hard for people to pronounce. The writing me existed before the married me did. Plus, my dad and his brother only had daughters, so I’d like to think that being published under my maiden name would be like him having had a son.

What keeps you motivated in keeping your blog up and going?

I love writing. I love that I have created this space where my writing is housed and that I am writing with more frequency than ever before. Other people are reading my work and being inspired, which thrills me. I’m self-driven so for the most part, I don’t need any other motivation, but I am thankful for the support of my family and friends…that always helps me to keep going too.

Do your friends and family know about your blog?

Of course! My daughters and husband make regular appearances in my posts, so they’d better. Without my children, I wouldn’t have ReadingWhileEating at all. Which begs the question: When they’re teenagers, are they still going to allow me to write about them?

If you could insert one of your favorite characters from literature into a movie/tv series, who would it be and where would you put him/her? 

Sam probably didn’t know that she was asking this question of an English teacher. I had to think about my favorite shows and all-time favorite books to get a pairing that might work. What I came up with was to take Pilate Dead from Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon and put her in the Netflix series Orange is the New Black.

In addition to answering Sam’s questions, I’m supposed to tell you 3 things about myself, so here goes…

ONE:

When I had my first child, I had recurring nightmares about her falling off a Ferris Wheel. Sometimes I would be sitting alongside her, forced to watch from the top as she fell out of my arms. Sometimes I would be standing at the bottom, desperately hoping that I could catch her. She was an infant at the time, a newborn. Why was she even on a Ferris Wheel? It made no sense, yet that didn’t stop it from feeling very real.

Like most dreams of falling, before any impact I was jolted awake, my pulse racing and short of breath. Perhaps they were nothing more than the result of sleep deprivation and the worry that comes with being a new mom; she was so fragile, her survival dependent upon me.

TWO:

Since having children, I no longer can jump on trampolines: I pee myself. My children like to announce this Fun Fact in very public settings or whenever there’s company over for dinner.

When I was young, single, and waitressing on Long Island, occasionally the restaurant staff would go out to the club after our shift ended. One of my favorite co-workers was older than me, already married with a few kids of her own. I remember being on the dance floor when House of Pain’s Jump Around came on. When she jumped up, jumped up and got down, she confided in me that she had pissed herself. Even though she was wearing a skirt and didn’t seem to mind, I was mortified for her. Why? I asked her. “Kids!” She yelled over the DJ while continuing to bounce up and down, albeit with less gusto than before. Every time my children beg me to jump on the trampoline, I think of her.

THREE:

I consider myself a feminist. I am all about girl-power. I fully support Sydney Ireland becoming a Boy Scout and I can’t wait for the day when we have a female president.

Growing up, I always rode a boys’ bike- the frame with the horizontal cross-bar rather than the one that slopes downward so that a woman can wear a skirt and still ride comfortablyEarly in our marriage, my husband bought me a new bike for my birthday: a girls’ bike. Even though it was purple, just like my previous bike, I was disappointed in it, and, at first, he didn’t really understand why. My singing of “Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better,” didn’t really help matters.

As a feminist, I was destined to have daughters. Just as my mother raised me to be a strong, independent woman, I plan on doing the same for my girls. The other day my oldest started saying, “Just because we’re girls, doesn’t mean we can’t play football,” and “just because we’re girls, doesn’t mean we can’t act like boys.” Damn straight, Sister. Damn straight.

I look forward to the day I get to help her pick out her first 10-speed.

I am nominating the following bloggers, in no particular order, for the Mystery Blogger Award: 

I’d like my nominees to answer these questions:

  1. What is the most challenging part of blogging for you?
  2. What are you most proud of?
  3. What is the last, best thing (book, blog, article, poem) you read?
  4. What does your ideal day look like?
  5. If you could take a ride in the DeLorean, where would you visit and why?

And now, for my favorite posts:

Thank you, Sam, for nominating me for the Mystery Blogger Award. This was unexpected, resulting in a post that otherwise would have gone unwritten.

My Reasons for Watching 13 Reasons Why

One of the things I love about my job as a high school teacher is that it keeps me young. Most of the time, I find out about the latest trends before my own children do. I learn the newest slang, and my students think it’s funny when I’m able to work it into my own speech during class. Dealing with teenagers on a regular basis reminds me what it was like; it helps me to remember, including those parts that I’d rather forget.

pexels-photo-289740

Teaching English, my students confide in me through their writing. These windows, in particular, let me see some of their darkest moments. It didn’t surprise me then that when 13 Reasons Why premiered on Netflix, my students were abuzz. There was a resurgence in kids that wanted to read the popular novel by Jay Asher. As a representation of what they experience in high school, it resonated with them.

My students are participating in book clubs right now and I have six groups reading 13 Reasons Why. Others have chosen it as one of their independent selections for the semester. I’m stoked for anything that gets kids reading, but some of the students who have picked it up have had to put it down, unable to stomach the sadness. All the attention the title has received piqued my interest, if for no other reason than to form my own opinion, so in addition to buying a copy of the book, my husband and I recently cued it from our Netflix list.

If you haven’t heard, the show has been criticized for glorifying and romanticizing suicide. I’ve read pieces that talk about how the producers did the exact opposite of what one should do when dealing with this subject matter, warning anyone who might be suicidal or prone to suicidal thoughts not to watch. In contrast, I’ve read other works that praise the piece. Not to mention the press that surrounded this group of high school students who started an anti-suicide campaign: 13 Reasons Why Not.

I knew going in that it wasn’t going to be a show I could binge-watch. Each episode was heavier than the next, and several of them required additional warnings for their explicit content. However, in the end, I was glad that I viewed all thirteen episodes, not just as a teacher, but as a parent. While my children are only five and nine, startling enough, suicide is the second-leading cause of death for ages 10-24.

Did you see that? TEN.

I often write about the difficulties of parenting, yet I know raising an adolescent will be the most trying of all. This is only the boot camp for the eventual war of the teenage years. And as parents, we sometimes forget what it was like to be young, which only intensifies the conflict. Even if I find it easy to empathize with what my students go through, I might find it more challenging when it comes to my own children, when my love for them and the storm of emotions I feel clouds my understanding.

After the final episode, Netflix included “13 Reasons Why: Beyond the Reasons.” In it, the cast talks about how teenage brains don’t function the way that adult brains do. I’ve done enough lessons with my students on this very topic, usually in conjunction with our study of Romeo and Juliet, another suicide story. We watch some TedTalks about the adolescent brain and listen to podcasts from NPR before deciding whether Romeo and Juliet would have made different decisions if they each had a fully developed pre-frontal cortex.

Suicide is a subject that is a part of most teenager’s reality whether they have thought about it themselves, or known someone else who has. Just as Shakespeare didn’t shy away from it, neither does Jay Asher, which is why many students of mine find both works so intriguing.

The creators of the Netflix series hoped that the show would spark conversations between parents, and in my home, it did just that. I confessed to my husband that this scared the shit out of me long before we viewed the episode where Hannah’s mother finds her in the bathtub. (I had to shield my eyes from the graphic nature of the actual suicide.) My husband and I shared stories about the people we knew—friends and friends of friends– who’d taken their own lives. We discussed their reasons, and the impact it had on others. As a teacher, sadly, I add to the list alumni from schools where I’ve taught who didn’t choose life.

pexels-photo-196266

In one episode of the show, Clay imagines telling Hannah how he feels about her. Her response: Why didn’t you say this to me when I was alive?

In “Beyond the Reasons,” the producers advise parents not to ignore what they went through as teenagers, to be honest with their children, and to talk to them without judgement. They implore people to tell others, “You matter to me; I’m glad you’re in my world.” These small steps, they say, can make a big difference.

As a teacher, I appreciated 13 Reasons Why. Not only did it remind me about many of the issues my students face, but it also reminded me there are consequences for our actions, even when, as in the case with Mr. Porter, the action is inaction.

As a parent, it reminded me that what I say to my daughters can make a difference, things like, “It’s okay to not be okay. It’s okay to not be perfect.” Most of all though, it reminded me to take every opportunity to tell my children what they mean to me, to tell them that they matter. They’re not only in my world, but they are my world, and I love them no matter what.

 

For more like this, follow me on ReadingWhileEating or like my page on Facebook.