Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Adventures of Mighty Mommy

'Mighty Mommy' cupcakes
(decorated by my sprinkle helpers)
Once upon a time, there was a woman named Mighty Mommy.  She was the strongest, most beautiful mommy in the world.  She could move freezers with her own bare hands.  She could do dishes, wash laundry, talk on the phone, and still make the most delicious meals ever!  She was the coolest mommy, staging treasure hunts, baking yummy cupcakes, and giving piggyback rides.  All the other mommies loved her and wanted to be just like her.  She was Might Mommy, and she could do anything

If my children could write a story about me, I think it would go something like above.  In fact, all of the characteristics and feats mentioned were things my son and daughter complimented me on within the last week.  And after single-handedly moving our small deep freezer outside to defrost, my kids dubbed me ‘Mighty Mommy.’

Yet, I have to marvel at the love affair young children have with their mothers.  I’m no egomaniac.  I haven’t deluded myself into believing I’m the world’s greatest mom.  In fact, I see my flawed nature clearly and merely try to be the best mother be in my imperfection.  Still, my children never see my flaws, only the best in me.

I’m carrying around extra weight.  I’m in desperate need of a fashion makeover.  And my hair gets crazier than an electrocuted mad scientist.  All they see, though, is the most beautiful mommy ever.

Sometimes I’m crabby and irritable because I have extremely long days.  My to-do lists frequently spill into the next day since there’s never enough hours in the day.  I don’t always laugh or have enough fun.  And sometimes, I take life much too seriously.  Nevertheless, they only perceive the coolest, most fun mommy in the world.

What is it that makes young children adore their parents so?  Is it something we don’t see in ourselves?  Are we so critical of ourselves that we’ve lost touch with reality?  Or is this love, so unconditional and strong, how we all are meant to love each other always?  What do you think?

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Surviving the Heat Wave

With the forecast calling for weather in the high 80’s for this weekend and into next week, my family and I are struggling to keep cool.  Today, we cruised around in my fiancé’s car with the A/C cranked up high.  We wandered around the mall, taking our time to window shop and to allow the kids time to play on the indoor slide.  We even took extra time grocery shopping, just strolling up and down the aisles and savoring each minute spent in the cool air.

These days of high temperatures with high humidity are hard.  Without air conditioning in our home, heat waves can be a disaster.  Tempers get short.  Appetites become minimal.  And we are all left wondering when the heat wave is going to end!

It’s days like these, though, that make me glad that my parents were resourceful when I was young.  When the temperatures start rising I break out the squirt guns, sprinkler, and water balloons and we have a family water battle--just as my parents did when my brother and I were children.  Some of my favorite and happiest memories from my childhood surround those unbearably hot summer days when my parents became children again, launching water balloons and chasing us with an arsenal of squirt guns.

This heat is also the perfect time for enjoying some of our favorite summer joys: making sun tea and homemade popsicles; eating cold watermelon and holding seed spitting contests off the back porch; and having cookouts in the back yard.

The weather may be difficult, but it never fails to bring the family together.  It forces us to slow down, allowing us to notice and cherish the little things in life.  I’ll readily admit I can’t wait until this heat wave is over. However, I’m truly enjoying the extra family time, and I’m honestly looking forward to our first water battle of the season!

I hope all of you who are also experiencing this heat wave stay safe and cool.

So, what are some of your favorite summer memories?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Spanking: A Thing of the Past For Our Family

My daughter pretending to cry.
Recently, I was talking with another mother as we watched our children play.  As moms often do, we started discussing and comparing horror stories of past mischief our children have gotten into.  The conversation soon turned to punishment.  When I mentioned that I no longer spank my children, though, the other woman gave me a look like I just proclaimed that I’m into animal sacrifice or believe I was once abducted by aliens!

No, I am NOT a push-over parent.  I don’t allow my children to run free unchecked.  My children aren’t constantly getting into everything or tearing the house apart.  In fact, they are the exact opposite.  My son and daughter are well behaved, and I get compliments all the time whenever we are out about what good children they are.  So why do some people react so strongly and negatively that I have decided spanking is not for my family?

Of course, my children still act out and get into trouble periodically, as normal children do.  But I have learned that using time outs and revoking of privileges for undesired behavior and offering rewards for good behavior work far better than spanking ever did, especially for my son.

Growing up, my parents put fear into me and my little brother by spanking us with their hands and my father’s belt.  This is how discipline was dealt out on both sides of my family for generations, and it just continued from one generation to the next.  I know my parents meant well, but I can still remember the pain, humiliation, fear, and hopelessness like it was yesterday.  I also remember the tears and the worry as I would lie in my bed at night wondering if my parents might actually hate me.  Although this spanking played only a part, my difficult childhood made me decide pretty young (around 13 or so) that I never wanted to have children of my own.

Obviously and thankfully, I didn’t stick to my vow to never become a mother.  Nevertheless, my childhood is always present in the back of my mind, and it is ultimately what made me decide over 2 years ago that spanking was out for me and my family.

My son, who is now 6, was quite the temperamental toddler.  He would have temper tantrums that would make the most patient parent exasperated!  In desperation, I tried spanking him, but he’d scream louder.  I’d spank him again, and he would throw things in his room.  I’d spank him even more, and he’d start slamming doors.  As a single mother, his tantrums were starting to wear at my nerves, and I was feeling overwhelmed beyond words.

Then one day, he was demanding that I take him to his father (who had disappeared from our lives).  When I told him that I couldn’t my son started hitting me and telling me that he hated me.  I was so hurt by his words and angry at the world for suddenly being forced into single motherhood that my temper snapped.  I grabbed my son and went to put him over my knee to spank him (as my parents always did), but the sheer fear and shock on his face made me physically ill.

I was becoming just like my parents--what I had always feared and hated--and I cried.  I hugged my son close to me, and we cried together.  I told him that I loved him and that I understood that he was hurting inside because his daddy had left.  I told him that it hurt me too to not know why his daddy had chosen to leave.  But I promised that I’d always be there for him and never leave.

From that day on, I decided to no longer spank my kids.  It has been a hard journey learning to parent differently than what I was raised to do.  I have slipped sometimes and doubted myself many times along the way.  Yet, seeing how my children have become so well behaved and how my son has grown to be a happier, much more mellow boy has made the struggle so worth it!  I have become a happier and more positive person and parent as well.

Ultimately, I will never go back.  Other parents can ridicule me or think I’m insane all they want, but I know what is right for me, my children, and my family as a whole.  I have seen the positive changes in myself and my children, and I’m happy with the results of my new parenting technique.  That is what truly matters!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Hiking Your Pants Off

My kids hiking their pants off!
As part of my resolution for a healthier 2012, I have decided to add more active time each week not only for me but for the whole family.  My children’s enthusiasm is a wonderful motivator to get me off the couch.  But most importantly, it’s also a wonderful opportunity to teach my son (6) and daughter (5) that staying active is an important and fun part of daily life.

Yesterday, we decided to hike at one of my fiancé’s favorite local nature spots, the 1889 Park in South Fork, PA.  Although I had visited this park in the past, I had never hiked the nature trails, so I was excited!  I was also excited for my children because they had never gone hiking before, and I knew they were going to have a blast!

I love the outdoors!  The more I surround myself with nature, the more relaxed and content I become.  As a teenager, I did plenty of hiking, fishing, camping, and mountain biking.  Living in the country was the greatest feeling, and I found any excuse to be out in the woods.  I even studied and read every opportunity I could, resting against the roots of my favorite tree.

Although I moved to the city 9 years ago, I want to still pass on this passion to my children.  So this Sunday outing promised to be the beginning of something wonderful.  I was a little concerned, though, that my children might have trouble keeping up.  They are still pretty young and my daughter is petite yet for her age.  But I hoped with a little handholding and a slower pace, they would enjoy themselves immensely.

However, soon after we reached the 1889 Park and set out hiking on the trails, I realized how wrong I had been in assuming they might have trouble keeping up.  Instead of my fiancé and I needing to slow down, we were huffing and puffing, trying desperately to keep up with the little ones!  In fact, on several occasions, I had to tell my son and daughter to stop and come back because they were getting too far ahead!

They were speeding down the trails so fast that they were literally hiking their pants off!  My fiancé and I were near hiccups laughing as we watched them trying to simultaneously run and hold their pants up.  Pure joy was radiating from their faces, and I knew that they couldn’t be any happier.

The fresh air, beautiful weather, laughter, and fun exercise made for a perfect afternoon!  In fact, I don’t recall us having that much fun in quite awhile.  It felt so wonderful to share an experience that each one of us was thoroughly enjoying.  I know we’ll be doing much more hiking as a family in the future.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Crunchy Creepy Critters

Blueberry scorpion lollipop
My younger brother served several years in the military as an Army MP.  Since he was stationed away from home and was deployed overseas on 2 occasions, my family always looked forward to his visits back home.  My children especially missed their uncle and awaited his next leave with extreme impatience!

During one of my brother’s trips back home, he saw in the airport gift shop lollipops with real scorpions in the center.  For years, he and I have bought each other little gag gifts, so he decided a blueberry flavored one would be the perfect gift for me.

When my brother presented me with my little gift I got a kick out of it and thought it was interesting.  It brought back memories of 4th grade science class when my teacher brought to school chocolate-covered grasshoppers, and I was the only student to volunteer to eat one.  I remember it was actually kind of tasty, much like a chocolate-covered nut.

However, I am older and wiser now, so I am much more particular about what goes into my stomach.  Consequently, that scorpion lollipop has been sitting around inside my desk drawer for close to 2 years.  It has become melted and sticky over the last few months--and less and less appetizing.

Finally, after finding my pens stuck to the scorpion lollipop one too many times, I decided it was time to throw it away today.  Right when I was about to throw it in the trash can, however, my 5-year-old daughter rushed over and yelled in panic: “Mommy, what are you doing?!”

I told her that I was throwing the lollipop out because it was getting too gross and was starting to ooze all over my pens in my desk drawer.

She frowned and exclaimed, “But Mommy, I wanted to eat it . . . I love lobster!”

Immediately, I started laughing so hard I couldn’t breathe!  As soon as I could talk again, I explained to my little princess that the lollipop didn’t have a lobster inside of it.  Rather, it was actually a scorpion, a type of bug.  My daughter, who has a severe insect phobia, turned really pale and ran screaming from the room.  As she slammed the door shut, I heard her cry out, “Ewwwwwwwww, never mind!”

Looks like no one is eating “lobster” tonight!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Blessings of Parenthood

My son, the smiley baby
Yesterday evening, my family welcomed a new addition.  My cousin had her fourth child, a precious baby girl.  Since she and her family don’t live near by, we waited impatiently for the first photos to be shared on Facebook.  Finally, last night, I received a notification that a photo had been posted and I was ecstatic!  There’s nothing like the excitement after the birth of a newborn baby.

My son (6) and daughter (5) gathered around my laptop, eager to take their first glimpse of their brand-new cousin.  My daughter, particularly, was beside herself with anticipation.  She had known for a while that the baby was going to be a girl and had been waiting for so long to finally see (as she calls the baby) her new best friend!

When the photo loaded the room was flooded with my children’s exclamations.  They thought their new cousin is so cute and the cutest baby ever!  And then, the zillion questions started:

“Mommy, what’s her name?”
“When can we see her?”
“Why is she so tiny?”
“Why are her eyes closed?”
“Why is she wearing a hat?”
“Where is her mommy?”

As I tried to answer all their questions, my mind drifted back to the days when my son and daughter were born.  Those days were two of the happiest days of my life, and I can’t imagine my life without my kids.  Sometimes, I try to picture what I might be like or where I might be in life if I hadn’t been blessed with them.  But it’s impossible!

All their hugs, kisses, romping, giggling, smiles, and yes, even their mischief have become such an integral part of my life that who I am has been and continues to be shaped by my children.  The old me hasn’t died or been erased.  In fact, the old Amanda is still right here.  But the more time I spend with my children, the more I grow and evolve, adding on to who and what I used to be.

Some people are terrified of becoming parents because they are afraid they will lose themselves.  Yet, after over 6 years of motherhood, I can assure you that you gain so much more than you ever lose.  Yes, gone are those late nights out and lazy Saturdays when you can sleep in until noon.  Yes, you may find yourself with a few extra pounds and stretch marks.  Nonetheless, under it all, you will see that rather than losing yourself, you find more of yourself.  Without even trying or expecting to you discover new things about yourself and finally find the person you truly want to be!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Backyard Boundaries

I don’t normally question other peoples’ parenting techniques or choices.  In fact, I’m the first to admit that I am far from perfect and I have made my share of parenting mistakes over the years.  However, I witnessed something last Friday that shocked me so much I still am left trying to make sense of it all!

Friday afternoon, after my children and I returned from walking our dog, I noticed a toddler wandering around in my backyard.  Thinking the little boy might be lost, I was about to go back outside when I heard a voice calling from a few yards away.  Looking out my window, I noticed it was a woman, possibly his mother.  She was hard at work raking her fenced-in backyard.  But instead of answering the woman’s calls and returning to her, the toddler exclaimed, “NO!” and went right back to his wandering.

Immediately, I thought that she’d surely come and get him now since he was running even farther away and was refusing to listen.  Instead, she continued her yard work, yelling even louder to try to get the little boy to come back.  Every minute or so, she’d yell again, but the toddler showed no sign of wanting to return.  He was too busy picking dandelions in my yard.

I didn’t want to interfere because neighborhood drama is the worst, but I also didn’t want anything to happen to the boy.  I stood there watching him in utter disbelief.  I had never been in this type of situation before, so my mind was racing, what should I do?

Finally, after several minutes of them yelling back and forth, I decided I had had enough and I started for the backdoor.  But just as I went to reach for the doorknob, I heard the woman call again, and the little boy yelled, “Okay!” and ran back to her.

Yes, she was watching him the entire time he was running around in neighbors’ yards.  Yes, she wasn’t happy with his behavior and was making sure he knew it.  Yet, I can’t help but feel a little disturbed!  Toddlers can be quite a handful and can get into trouble in a heartbeat.  What if he had decided to veer for the alley behind our houses?  And what about teaching our children to respect other people and their property?

I have taught my children from a very young age to not go into other peoples’ yards or to pick their flowers without permission.  There are people who find that sort of behavior unacceptable regardless of age or circumstance, and we should respect that.

Maybe I’m an overprotective parent with old-fashioned ideas, but I would never leave my children do what this toddler did.  In my mind, not only is it unfair to neighbors, it is also putting the kid at unnecessary risk.  We hear about kids wandering off and getting hit by a car far too frequently.  And that doesn’t even count the accidental drownings and deaths from other accidents.  I know most parents have the best of intentions with their children, but sometimes I wonder if some parents are truly thinking about the possible consequences.

What do you think?  Have/would you ever allow your own young children to do something similar?

Friday, May 11, 2012

Mother's Day Mambo

My son and daughter are currently music maniacs.  If they aren’t asking for me to turn on the radio or CD player, they are singing, making their own music, or dancing.  They equate music with happiness and excitement.  If it’s sunny outside finally after a week of rain, let’s sing about it!  If we just watched an amazing new movie, let’s run around dancing to the music during the end credits!  If a special occasion is coming up, it won’t be complete with some music with loads of singing and dancing!

Their enthusiasm and energy are inexhaustible and make me laugh and smile each and every time.  I often wonder how on earth such happy and lively children came from me.  My family has often told me that I was a reserved, thoughtful, and serious child.  Of course, I had my hyper and excitable moments at times.  However, from a young baby, I was often content to simply sit quietly and study the world around me.  My late father used to tease me growing up that I was an old lady stuck in a child’s body.

Over the years, I have learned to live it up more and to act like a total goofball to have a good laugh.  But truthfully, most of what I’ve learned about the lighter side of life has come from my own children.  We have water battles, run races, dress up in funny costumes, and talk to each other in silly voices.  It is as though my inner child has finally escaped and now has room to run free!

My children challenge me all the time to break out of my comfort zone and do things completely out of character for my reserved self.  For example, my daughter (almost 5) has decided I must dance to celebrate Mother‘s Day this weekend.  She explained to me yesterday that I am, quote, “the best mommy ever so [I] need to dance!”

I told her I don’t really know how to dance, but she immediately insisted that everyone knows how to dance.  I only have to listen to the music and move.  My own dance will just happen.  She also added that I have to do my Mother’s Day dance with her and in front of others.  (What’s the use of dancing if not to share it with others?)

The thought of dancing with other people in the room mortifies me!  In fact, besides a little swaying to the music, I haven’t attempted to dance in over a decade.  Yet, my little princess is set on having our little mother/daughter dance session.  And who am I to disprove her Best-Mommy-Ever title?  So, here goes nothing . . . wish me luck because this mama is off to find her inner rhythm this weekend!

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms, grandmas, wives, and special women out there!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Typing to the Tapping Tempo

As I am writing this blog post today, my ears are being attacked by a firestorm of loud taps. Tap, tap, TAP!  Ta-tap, Ta-tap, Tap-tap!  No, I am not abusing my laptop keys.  And no, I haven’t gone old school and opted for a typewriter.  Actually, my daughter (who will be 5 later this month) has donned her dress-up shoes and has decided she was born to tap dance.

I actually had an entirely different post planned for today.  However, her new-found passion has suddenly changed the direction of mine.  Just a few short moments ago, this transpired in my living room:

Across the carpet, my daughter stamps--tap, tap, tap.  Not satisfied with the subdued taps, she abruptly changes directions and heads straight for the only hardwood floor in the entire house (the front foyer).  TAP, TAP TAAAAAP!  Beaming with glee, she attempts a complicated move.  Suddenly, her left shoe comes soaring through the air, bounces off my head, and lands on the keyboard of my laptop.

All in all, I’d say this is not the best writing environment.  Yet, all writers know that regardless of external circumstances, we must write.  So, I asked her to keep her tapping to a minimum and to avoid sending any more shoes into flight . . . and on I write.  Tap, tap, TAP!  Ta-tap, ta-tap, tap-tap, TAP!

However, now that her tap dancing has tamed a bit, the tempo is becoming quite soothing.  As she quickens her pace, I find my fingers flying across the keyboard--matching tap for tap.  I have even thought to myself a time or two already, hey, I could get used to this!  Ta-tap, tap, TAP!  Ta-tap, tap, TAP!  Ta-tap, tap, TAP!  I’m loving this rhythm!  I could do this all day.

If you would have told me just a half an hour ago that I would be loving this tap fest, I would’ve thought you were insane.  Who knew something that started out as a horrible distraction could turn so quickly into a quirky creative partnership?

Tap on, little princess.  Keep those fast tempos and glorious rhythms coming.  Let your little feet express your inner joy . . . I know my flying fingers are!

Monday, May 7, 2012

A to Z Challenge 2012 Reflections

When I signed up for the A to Z Blogging Challenge only a few short days before it started (April 1) part of me felt I was insane!  I was a blogging newbie with only 3 blog posts under my belt.  The rational side of me knew that this challenge could prove to be a valuable and rewarding experience, helping me to mold myself into the open and flowing writer I hoped to become this year.  Yet, the idea of having to write 6 days a week when I hadn’t written regularly in years made me tremble.  Going into the challenge, I couldn’t ignore the little voice in my mind, whispering, “You’re insane!  You’re never going to make it!”

Nevertheless, here I am a week after the challenge with 26 blog posts, all submitted on-time and with my heart in every single one of them.  Of course, I had a couple bad days.  There were a couple times my scheduled posts didn’t post when they were supposed to post.  Several of my posts were completed later in the day than I had planned.  I even went through a bout of writer’s block near the end.  But I conquered my fears and doubts, never once allowing any obstacle to stand in my way.

To know I finished the challenge is such a satisfying and empowering feeling!  A week later, I swear my inner writer is still floating high above the world in total bliss . . . and I can’t wait to attempt the challenge again next year!  If you are a blogger and have not attempted the A to Z Challenge, I encourage you to consider it for next year.  I cannot express how much the challenge has boosted my confidence and freed my writing.  I am writing freer and better than I have in years largely because the challenge allowed me to practice my art regularly and actively dared me to be more confident and courageous with my writing.

I would like to thank all my readers who have shared this wonderful challenge with me, as well as all the amazing fellow bloggers I have met along the way.  You all have made this adventure fun and even more rewarding.  I am especially happy to say, though, that this isn’t goodbye.  This leg of the journey is now complete, but the journey itself is nowhere near over.  I’d love for each and every one of you to continue journeying with me as I further write about the humorous and quirky side of parenting.

Friday, May 4, 2012

The Birthday Blues

Well, today is my birthday, and even though I am nowhere near being old, I’m suffering from the birthday blues.  For the last week, my precious little princess has been asking me every day, “Mommy, when are you going to be 40?!”

For some odd reason, which I still can’t fathom, she is obsessed with the big 4-0.  And it just occurred to me that I am only 12 years away today!  Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those under 30 types, who erroneously believes that 40 is ancient.  In fact, I actually hope to live to a healthy and young 100.

However, a part of me can’t help but stop and wonder where in the world did the time go?!  Sometimes, it seems like just yesterday that I was a kid myself, running around without a care in the world and insisting I’d never grow up.

It is occasions like these that make me reexamine my life, reminding me that the time we have on this earth isn’t infinite.  It is during times like today that I must ask myself the hard questions: am I happy with my life?  What have I accomplished so far?  Am I where I should be?  Or should I kick myself into high gear and start doing more meaningful things?  Am I setting a good example for my children and paving the way properly for a better future for them?  The questions go on and on . . .

It is certainly a sobering reexamination and not always that pleasant.  No one likes to be reminded of their mortality or their shortcomings.  Yet, it is also a wonderful opportunity for growth and renewed focus.  At times, we get so caught up in the daily routine and in the little mundane chores in life that we often forget where we were headed or what we should position as a top priority.

As I look back over the last several years of my life, I see a lot of hard work and good intentions.  But I also see quite a bit of unnecessary stress and worry.  I’m thankful every day that I am nowhere near where I used to be and that I have made leaps and bounds towards the better future I long for myself and my family.  Still, I’m not living life as happily and contently as I should.

Consequently, as I embark on the next year of my life, I vow to remember to enjoy the little things in life more.  I promise to replace worry and doubt with happiness and faith every opportunity I can.  And I pledge to not forget the present in my quest for the future because what is life without the simple joys of the here and now?